The Supreme Court while dealing with a case relating to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 i.e., SC/ST Act has held that the officers who institute an FIR are duty-bound to be vigilant before invoking any provision of a very stringent statute.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed, “This Court would indicate that the officers, who institute an FIR, based on any complaint, are duty-bound to be vigilant before invoking any provision of a very stringent statute, like the SC/ST Act, which imposes serious penal consequences on the concerned accused. The officer has to be satisfied that the provisions he seeks to invoke prima facie apply to the case at hand. We clarify that our remarks, in no manner, are to dilute the applicability of special/stringent statutes, but only to remind the police not to mechanically apply the law, dehors reference to the factual position.”

The Bench found the complaint and FIR against the appellant to be frivolous, vexatious, and oppressive in nature.

Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat appeared on behalf of the appellant while Advocates Shubhranshu Padhi and Vishal Banshal appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Brief Facts -

An appeal was preferred against the judgment passed by the Karnataka High Court whereby it rejected the plea of the appellant who was the Managing Director of a company engaged in developing residential properties. The company and its owners entered into a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) in 2009 and thereafter, the apartment project was completed and sale deeds were executed in favour of the allottees.

The original owners of the land claimed the title on the basis of possessing the sale deed with regard to the said land and pursuant to the JDA, the land owners got the land use changed from agriculture to non-agriculture and obtained the sanctioned map and building license before commencing construction. One of the sons who was the owner of the old survey number was assigned a new survey number and due to such change, he claimed title over the land which resulted in prolonged civil litigation.

The Supreme Court in the above context noted, “In the present case, there is a huge, and quite frankly, unexplained delay of over 60 years in initiating dispute with regard to the ownership of the land in question, and the criminal case has been lodged only after failure to obtain relief in the civil suits, coupled with denial of relief in the interim therein to the respondent no.2/her family members. It is evident that resort was now being had to criminal proceedings which, in the considered opinion of this Court, is with ulterior motives, for oblique reasons and is a clear case of vengeance.”

The Court further said that even if the allegations are taken to be true on their face value, it is not discernible that any offence can be said to have been made out under the SC/ST Act against the appellant.

“… the Court finds that the High Court fell in error in not invoking its wholesome power under Section 482 of the Code to quash the FIR”, asserted the Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment and FIR.

Cause Title- Gulam Mustafa v. The State of Karnataka & Anr.

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